MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday stressed to the public that buying and selling convalescent plasma to treat the novel coronavirus is against the law and poses risks.
“Trading blood and other blood products, including those from recovered COVID-19 patients, is not only illegal but highly dangerous," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement.
"Convalescent plasma should not be for sale and should be voluntarily donated for COVID-19 patients in need."
The DOH issued the fresh warning following reports that some families of critically ill coronavirus patients were allegedly buying blood plasma from those who survived the disease, hospital staff or fixers.
Reports that some people intentionally infecting themselves with COVID-19 to sell their plasma have also reached the DOH.
The DOH said the illicit trade could pose serious risks to patients who may contract transfusion-transmissible infections such as HIV, hepatitis and malaria.
At present, only the Philippine Blood Center and the Philippine Red Cross in Port Area, Manila, are the only non-hospital facilities authorized to collect the plasma, besides the Philippine General Hospital and St. Luke’s Medical Center.
The DOH said convalescent plasma therapy was still being evaluated and not yet part of the standard care for COVID-19 patients.
"To date, there is no concrete evidence to show that it is effective against SARS-CoV-2," it said.
Convalescent plasma, taken from the blood of recovered patients, contains neutralizing antibodies against the virus. The therapy has been used as treatment in past infectious disease outbreaks, such as Ebola and SARS.
The DOH also reminded the public that all blood and blood products should be collected from volunteer blood donors only, citing Republic Act 7719 or the National Blood Service Act of 1994.
Paid donation is prohibited and facilities who will pay blood donors will be penalized according to DOH Administrative Order No. 36 series of 1994 Chapter 7, Section 26 and Chapter 8, Section 41.
"DOH is calling on the aid of hospital chiefs to check their own staff if they engage in this practice and LGUs to investigate the trade of convalescent plasma outside the realm of authorized health facilities," it said.
"Likewise, DOH is appealing to relatives of patients to stop dealing with fixers operating inside and outside the hospital."
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines reached 126,885, with 4,226 new infections reported Saturday. The tally includes 2,209 fatalities, 67,117 recoveries and 57,559 active cases.